gougetheeyes got a reaction from slayer9019 for a blog entry, Grez Interview from 2010, pt. 1
All right LSTers, here's an older interview I did with the very talented Grez from King's Avenue from last year. The magazine in which it appeared only published a very abbreviated version and, after talking with Lochlan and getting permission from Grez to post it, I thought this would be a good place to share the full version.
Since it is somewhat dated and a portion of it already appeared, most magazines wouldn't be interested. And since I've shelved the book project for now, was just looking for a kind of free and open place to share. It's not quite as exciting as a video interview, I know, but it's a good read and there are some great pieces of advice in here.
Grez talks about getting tattooed by D. E. Hardy and Chris Conn, his realization of how important the use of black is, and the biggest thing he's learned from tattooing. Massive question. Stay tuned for part 2. Hope you enjoy.
Let’s start with a little background information.
The first tattoo I ever did was February 1, 2000. I have a photo with a little digital imprint and I use that as my marker. I started in Syracuse, NY, my hometown. I was in college and graduated in ’99. About halfway through college, two of my best friends opened up a shop in Syracuse called Halo Tattoo. I was there for the opening and was constantly there during breaks, like for Christmas break I would be there all day every day because they were hardcore kids I knew from the music scene that just happened to be tattooers.
I was an art major in college and started collecting [tattoos] at a young age. They offered to teach me and I kind of hinted at it. I was hanging out and doing a lot of drawing and was hoping my friend Ron would ask. He agreed to teach me when I graduated. So I graduated in ’99 and started tattooing in 2000, February 1st. And a couple months later they unleashed me on the clients.
I was there for about two and a half years. I knew at that point, even before I started at Halo, I told them, “Listen, I’m going to stick it out for a couple years but I need to be in a bigger city.” They’re the best people in the world there, in Syracuse, they’re my best of friends, but I just felt like I needed the city life, a little more fast-paced. Now, I’m actually trying to get out of that.
Where did you move after Syracuse?
My wife and I moved to Boston. We lived in Boston for three years. I worked at Redemption tattoo in Cambridge, [Massachusetts]. I met Mike [Rubendall] at a convention in probably 2003. It’s pretty random how I ended up here but I feel like it was destiny, because he and I get along so well.
He was tattooing my best friend. He was doing a sleeve on him, and I call my friend who was living in Queens to tell him my wife and I were moving to New York and he just happened to be with Mike. And Mike got on the phone and said, “Hey, you wanna work for me?” And I said “Absolutely.” I came out and hung out with him for a day or two, shook his hand, and moved here a few months later.
This shop is amazing.
It’s crazy. When Mike first opened, when he was putting the shop together, he asked what kind of surfaces we should get to work on, and I didn’t want to throw out anything too expensive. I didn’t want to tell him anything too crazy. And then I came to the shop and see granite floors and I’m like “Oh my God, never mind! You got it under control.”
We came out here and this place was demoed and two weeks later, the amount of work that was done I couldn’t believe it. I’d say he did probably 75% of it in a month. He had guys working around the clock. When I moved here, he said he’d hoped to be open in July. But he found a few places and they weren’t down with having a tattoo shop in there. So he lost a few [places] and then we didn’t open until November. I was trying to travel a lot and just make money while he was trying to find a location. And then he found this location, which is a few blocks away from where he grew up, so it seems perfect that he came back here.
I know nothing about Long Island...
I didn’t either. The first time I ever came out here to meet him was the first time I’d ever been to Long Island. I live in Queens and I commute out here but it’s really not bad.
I work five days a week, sometimes six. I haven’t been doing that in a while because I got really burned out on it.
That brings me to the next point that it’s so apparent that everyone here works so hard. There’s none of that two or three days a week nonsense.
Yeah, everyone here really busts their asses. That’s something that’s great about Mike. He’s not one of those guys that watches workers bust their ass just so he doesn’t have to work. He’s just as intense about his work as everyone here. I’ll look at him and I can’t be stressed. He’s got so much more on his plate than I do. He has everything done on time and he’s a great person to work for because he’s still truly passionate about tattooing.
I was even talking to a tattooer the other day and he said it was such a bummer to work for people who don’t care about tattooing anymore. Because then you just feel like you’re working for them. They’re not trying to learn anything. Here, it’s just such a healthy environment for all of us.
Any of these guys can come up to me and be honest. Say when I put a drawing on the table, they can say, “This is wrong, this is wrong and that’s wrong.” They know my work and they see my drawings every day. Sometimes they can pinpoint problems with [the drawing] that I don’t see because I’ve been staring at it too long. I trust these guys enough that they’re not just screwing with me. I’ll take their points into considerations and make a lot of changes because of them.
Everyone’s honest with each other and it’s really rare. I’ve worked at some shops guest-spotting and it’s almost like the tattooers are competitive and it’s so unhealthy, like an unhealthy competitiveness. They’re just kind of looking over everyone’s shoulders and it’s just not a healthy environment.
Your tattoos have such a great look to them, no matter what it is. How do you think your style’s evolved since you started?
Starting at Halo, those guys did a lot of traditional work and that was what I was more drawn to as far as tattoos go. By starting off with traditional, it just gave me the perfect foundation to learn. You hear it a lot, but American traditional is just the best formula to learn. It’s clean lines, solid color and shading. It’s usually a third black, a third color and a third skin. It’s such a great recipe to build a tattoo that lasts.
That’s what I feel my foundation was but when I look at my old work… You know, when you sit there and you’re drawing and an apprentice, I would sit there and I knew I had so much to learn. Looking back, I feel like my older work wasn’t really traditional because it didn’t have any kind of weight to it.
I think a lot of that comes with having confidence in your work. I didn’t have confidence putting in huge fields of black and color, or to use heavier lines. But as I became more confident with the machines and my own work, starting to work with other artists from out of town, like from DC, some of the guys from Jinx Proof and Adam Barton came from California. We hit it off and we actually connected more through music than we did through tattoos. But working with him, painting flash together, it really took my work forward.
I took huge steps forward because when I thought I was putting a lot of black in my work, I realized I wasn’t really putting any. I saw how powerful his work was with the heavy amount of weight and all the black. I feel like that was a pinpoint in my career that really showed me that I was going in the right direction but not doing anything right. I kind of wasn’t doing adult-looking tattoos, you know? I was kind of dancing around and doing too many fades, trying to make things too fancy. When all I needed to do was strip everything down more.
Do you try to keep a traditional thread running through your work?
No, I think it depends on the image. Sometimes I can do things really simple and sometimes I render them with a lot more depth. I like doing a lot of black and gray, also, which isn’t really related at all to traditional American, it’s more like Renaissance and Christian artwork. People come in for crosses or a cross and rosary beads and I love doing that stuff. I feel like it’s a good break from the traditional American stuff. A lot of people come in for Japanese, too, and I’ve been doing a bit of that, but I feel like it’s impossible to break from the American influence on my work, which is okay with me.
It’s a little heavier and stiffer, but I like that I’m not trying to make it look like Horiyoshi, but more like an American kid’s take on Japanese themes.
gougetheeyes reacted to Gloomy Inks for a blog entry, “… and that’s why I’m writing while I’m drunk.”
In the past month I’ve paid for two extracted wisdom teeth, a pound of hamburger that went bad, a pound of chicken, set a date for my wedding, got punched in the face by my crazy dad, so I decided to get drunk and write this. I’m on drink two. If you’re going to write while you’re blasted, don’t start out sober. Now that’s stupid.
If you’re smart have one or two then get going. Reason being is you need to have some focus. One thing I learned in high school when I thought that some sort of latter day Lester Bangs swilling cough syrup and charging forth on term papers and book reports was cool. Well it wasn’t, and being the teen aged drunk I turned to… what was in the house. Scotch, Dewar’s, fine stuff now, but to my weak, un liquor trained body it was awful, so I mixed it with sour.
I’m on drink three now.
Tell you another thing while I’m at it. You think to yourself, “Oh the guy playing music up there is drunk, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t playing killer!”
It’s called practice. Yes, band’s practice, but it’s important to know your limits, which is what practice is for. I know now that any form of liquor and Gator Aid is recipe for disaster. The booze/sugar/sugar/electrolytes and whatever the Hell else they put in there will kill you almost. Or that if you funnel 32 beers, you’re gonna pass out, but then you gotta walk home. Or that if someone says,” I got some ___________. Who wants some?” You say no.
Drink four, keep ‘em coming.
I tell you what I DON’T like to do when I’m drunk. I hate tattooing. I detest it. I’ve done it once, no, not again. Not that it isn’t fun to tattoo. But I get bored, I want another beer. I want a smoke. I want to walk around. I want to eat the worm. I want to wake up naked in the back yard with one shoe on and no sock, and one sock on and no shoe. And the dog was licking me.
Drink 5, you know what I like about you?
I’ll tell you. You’re reading this, that’s why. One day, maybe when I’m dead and gone and in Potter’s Field in the damned Bronx with Charlie Wagner (And I’d bet my life Apache Harry) some of you might even get a giggle out of it. Or a titter.
Can you say titter here?
You think you’re better than me, don’t you? With all your fancy art school training? You’re not my dad! I don’t have to take this. Ernie! Gimmie another drink, and a Shirley Temple for these… this…
(Sobbing) I’m sorry. I love you guys. If I had a nickel for every time I said it… Let me share a cab with you home.
Can you pick up the fare?
(All correct spelling and grammar brought to you through the power of MS Office.- ED) (not Horton)
gougetheeyes reacted to Gloomy Inks for a blog entry, Holy Crap! I made it through a whole minute of Ink Masters!
My lady and I just got cable, and cable internet, which is why you get to read more of my stuff. Lucky you. Yeah, huh?
I'll not watch Ink Masters. Just won't happen. I got burned by tattoo shows long ago, and once bitten, last time on the channel. I'll give 'em a shot for a few minutes, but then I see pin striping cars, and I hate it.
But ya know, I'll watch shows where they do cover ups all damned day long. I guess its the people person in me. What is tattooing if not the hardest of all the customer service positions; "I really like the weight of these lines," Machine buzzing away, "Goddamnit! Quit moving around or I'm gonna fuck you up!"
So we're digging the show, and I can't keep track of time. Dates seem to be a recurring "I don't give a shit" subject, time however never seems to come up. It does with me though. I have to make conscious effort to keep track of things like when I need to be places, or when I have a some poor deluded dummy who likes me stick figures with a lemniscate that pass for pin ups with huge hooters. I do pretty good too, so hey. Sometimes though, I just lose it. Five hours or five minutes? I'll have no idea and I look up, shit, it's 5 AM.
So this ad comes on for Ink Masters. Fer one, just cause you have tattoos, don't make you an expert Dave Navarro. What's really funny is that I almost called him Dave Grohl. I like the man's guitar playing, but he 'effed up a whole Chilli Peppers record. Never mind that.
Oliver Peck. Oh, little Oliver. What an angry, shitty little guy you are to people. I mean, I know it was hard when you came up, and it must not have been easy. But settle down man! Calm yourself. And I like toothpicks as much as the next guy. You're at Sizzler though, and that is one of the few places I'll walk out with a tooth pick. Just smoke. Do it. Take your pills too.
I didn't notice who the third judge was this season, so someone is spared my wrath.
The ad goes on. And on. And, AHHAAHAHHAHAHHHAHHAHAHA!, it's still on. "Are we watching this?"
"Yes, we are," My lady says.
"Please turn it...," I say.
"Can't," She replies.
I'm getting agitated.
"The remote is in front of you," I turn to look at the chair that we use for a table.
It is, in fact, on the chair.
I turned it.
So I saw a whole minute. At least.
gougetheeyes reacted to Gloomy Inks for a blog entry, Is this THE End of GLOOMY INKS???
After a great deal of pain and my fiance' getting me to move on it I went to the doc's. I have these tumors... and they have been bothering me, and like many, I ignored it. I work, go home, and jump online for a few hours. "I'll get to it," I say to myself.
So this pain was in my huevos, and that got me to go. Not fun pain in the least. My doc asks me if she can see the tumors. I go to unhitch my belt.
"Noooooooo, " She laughs, "The ones on your back."
I do, and her jaw drops, she turns white as a ghost, "Cafe Ole spots, fibroma... it's Neurofibromatosis type I." (A genetic disorder, and if anyone cares, here is a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofibromatosis_type_I)
"That's what I thought. A tattooer friend, who knows medicine, told me that a year ago," Said I.
"Consider this a second opinion," She said.
This doc has known me since I was eight years old, and she used to give me sample packs of antibiotics because my family was poor. I turned to her to jokingly ask her if antibiotics would help. She was still white, she had her hand to her mouth and looked as if she might cry. Nice lady, like I said.
I stopped myself right there. "Is this what the Elephant Man had?" I ask.
She nodded, almost unable to speak, "Yes... I didn't want to say..."
I figured that, as I had seen a documentary on Joseph Merrick, although he had both NF1 and Proteus Syndrome.
I jumped in the air and
ran over to her. Granted, I wanted to give her a hug, but she's a pro, and since everyone in my mind is a potential client, I gave her a high five. "YES!" I yelled.
"Sure I am. I know what it is now, I'll find treatment as best I can fr as long as I can (there is no "out" for this, as Stoney St. Clair said about Ben Corday who had TB, "You watch the leaves fall and regrow for a few years, and then they bury you."), and I tattoo. Tattooing was a big part of the sideshow. My lady's family were all in the carnival business. So as I see it, all I gotta do is learn to paint circus banners, become a human volcano, and swallows swords. I can be my own 10 in 1."
Of course the shock wore off, and now I'm none to pleased. My lady and I will get married, but until I can get checked out at a clinic that specializes in this, my prognosis will be up in the air. Not to mention I may not be able to work for much longer behind machines. Bummer two, I just tuned my Jim Dandy's after a year with no problems and they purr like vicious kittens.
Sure, I got my books I'm writing, and I figure I can still paint flash for a while, but this has become what I always dreaded. Fatal illness. And it isn't even one I would have expected. Lung Cancer. COPD. Heart Attack, or a stroke.
Nope. Not a one. In fact, this has been with me since conception. I have been a ticking time bomb of badness just waiting to happen.
Bitter? Naw, just bummed I might have to leave the party early. Sad? Maybe that people will see me as a freak, and since there are no more sideshows, I can't go out. (I'd be tattooing on a sideshow right now if they would have me)
So now it's SSDI and Medicare for me. Sweet.
But I'm not angry. Shit, if I get real awful looking I can always use it. All the world loves a tattooer? No? Yes? They loved Stoney, and love Grime, so a big tattooed guy with deformities... maybe I'll still fit in.
Anyways, for my one friend on here, I'll be posting snippets of my book now and again.
Buy me whiskey, for I have no money for whiskey now. Oh and 11 mags. I'm out and using 9s. Yes, you feel bad for me right? (wink)
gougetheeyes reacted to Gloomy Inks for a blog entry, "What is the HELL is wrong with these people?" (For artists that talk poo)
I hate to throw around the word professional.
I mean, what is a professional tattoo artist? Is it some one with dedication? Someone who understands art? Someone who can pound whiskey and tattoo a few hundred sailors in a night?
Or is a professional one who does not slag off competition. One who treats even the dumb with respect and kindness, but yet has a line that you don't want to cross?
Or is the professional tattoo artist one simply there to collect money, the art be damned? A scammer, full of BS?
Well I think the whole idea of shit talking is utter non-sence, and I'm not scared to say it. Sure there are quire a few old timers who liked to sling mud, but in this day and age you can't say, "Oh, there are too many artists."
You can back it up with all the excuses you can think of, but when it comes right down it, it's bunk. The population of the US (not to mention the world) has grown, and if any one can read past a needle grouping code and do the damned math, it isn't much different numbers wise, it's just inflation. Tattoos used to be from a quarter and up pretty much. Put in the mid 70s and beyond inflation and now you got big money coming in for you.
Look, I like to pretend too. I like to think of myself as a big bad Bowery tattooer, rough and tumble, and ready for a fight I'm sure to win. Were those times tough? Damned right. Were those times good for people? Ask anyone robbed or beat up, or slashed with a razor. They'll tell you it was damned rough shit, no doubt about it.
Frankly, I'm damned tired of it. "No business being in this business?"
What was it Sailor Jerry said, "When you think you're the best, you're already on the way out."
Ever think your egos might be getting the best of you? It's counter productive pride as I see it. If Tatts Thomas had not brought the young Norman Keith Collins aboard, we'd be missing so much in the art.
If Roy Boy didn't let Paul Booth work his table, just where in the fuck would that "dark art" be now except for the inside of Booths sketch books? I recently saw a very old Booth tattoo, before he worked on his own. You know what it looked like? Flat, that's what, and in color.
I'm not going to get all tough guy here, but really, it's 'mersh art that sells. If you have the guts to learn more, try hard and put up with a ton of shit, any knuckle dragger can be great. It don't take great minds, it takes guts.
See? Guts. I have the balls to wear my ink, work, and I don't take a whole lot of hokum from guys and gals who sadly took a whole lotta shit to get where they are now.
I was recently called a scratcher. And was told to "kill myself".
I laughed. If they get angry, not only have you scared them, but you have them talking about you and maybe even on the run. I'm sure the part time artist who said it was pissed. I'm taking his money and whats more, I learned the right way, from a master artist. If I'm so "bad" why do I still have clients?
You could say that people don't know art. And nine times outta ten that's true. But really, I'm the guy for my place and time, much like The Dude. I fit right in there.
So to anyone who might read this that doesn't tattoo, don't let the braggarts fool you. Bragging is a sign of insecurity.
To those who do tattoo, shut your mouths. More to come from a guy like me, be cause I'm not a Forty Miller. I refuse to stop, bad mouthing and all.
And with that, I wish you a fine morning. Sorry I'm a grump. My back hurts from TATTOOING all day yesterday.
(Let the insults come, but make 'em good. 0 to 100% grading scale, with no curve. Cheers!)